Recognizing Emotional Abuse
Physical violence is not the only form
of domestic abuse. Emotional abuse can affect you in serious ways as well. Emotional abuse
is when a partner:
- Verbally humiliates you
- Demands all your attention
- Blames you for everything that goes wrong
- Threatens to harm you or your children
Emotional abuse can occur among male-female couples or same-sex couples. It does not
require sexual intimacy.
Emotional abuse can be hard to
identify at first. It may consist of name-calling, ignoring your feelings, or cursing at
you. Over time, it often increases to repeated put-downs, ordering you to account for every
minute of your time, accusing you of doing things that you didn’t do, and demanding you
stop spending time with your family and friends. Your abuser creates an emotional
environment to control you and destroy your self-worth and independence.
You are not alone
In the U.S., over 12 million women
and men are abused by an intimate partner each year. Emotional abuse was reported more
often than either physical or sexual abuse. Emotional abuse accounts for almost half the
violence against women. Like all forms of domestic abuse, women of all races, religions,
and economic classes are mistreated by this sort of abuser. In many cases, verbal
attacks can over time lead to physical and sexual violence.
How to recognize it
There are no physical scars or
broken bones with emotional abuse. So it can be harder to recognize. Here are signs that
point to abuse:
Your partner swears or yells
Your partner repeatedly
bullies, cross-examines, or degrades you.
Your partner uses
name-calling, put-downs, and ridicule against you.
Your partner insults the
people you care for, your family, and friends.
Your partner threatens to
harm you or your family.
Your partner threatens or
abuses family pets.
Your partner controls or
limits your behavior by keeping you from using the phone or seeing friends.
- You are not allowed to leave the room or the house.
- Your access to money is limited or you are asked to account for
every penny you spend.
- Your partner follows you, and checks or limits your phone
Your partner forces you to
stay awake or repeatedly wakes you from sleep.
Your partner blames you for
the way he treats you.
Your partner forces you to do
degrading things such as making you kneel, or making you beg for money.
Your partner criticizes your
thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, and actions.
Your partner treats you like
a servant in matters of household chores and decisions.
Your partner is very jealous,
constantly accusing you of flirting or cheating.
Your partner tells you that
you are sick or crazy.
Your partner denies an event happened. Or he or she describes
it very differently from how you remember it. This is called gaslighting. This is
a form of emotional abuse that happens slowly. It makes you feel more dependent on
If you’re in a relationship that includes any of these behaviors, you are being abused.
Steps to take
Recognizing that you are being
emotionally abused and controlled is the first step toward healing.
For help, talk with your healthcare
provider, call your local shelter, or contact your local women’s shelter hotline. Search
online for your local social and human services department. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
If you’ve been threatened with harm
or death, or are being stalked, call
or the police.
Abuse is never acceptable and no
one deserves it. Just like all abuse, the emotional kind hurts and can cause a lot of
damage. Quickly identifying it and getting help can allow you to live free of fear,
bullying, and self-doubt.